Dec 9, 2011
If you are still alive, congratulations. With just a few weeks remaining in the fantasy football season, now is not the time to be a hero. Being safe is not a bad thing and there are plenty of good matchups that should allow you to do just that this week.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice and the Ravens ran all over the Browns last week and could do much of the same this week. We know the Colt defense is vulnerable on the ground and through the air, but I don’t expect to see Joe Flacco throwing very much when he can hand the ball off to one of the best RBs in the game. When the Ravens do throw it, Torrey Smith could be getting some looks downfield, which makes him an intriguing option as a flex play this week. Dan Orlovsky might have been the captain of the garbage-time production offense last week against the Patriots, but I doubt he and the Colts get that kind of production against a much better Raven defense in Baltimore on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
The Falcon run defense may be one of the best in the league, but they had no answer for Arian Foster last week. Of course, he’s one of the best in the game, but Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams aren’t bad either. We’ve seen more of a balanced offense from the Panthers in recent weeks, yet Cam Newton continues to have a great season whether he’s getting it done with his legs or his arm. I’d expect the Panthers to challenge the Falcon secondary, especially with CB Brent Grimes out yet again. Michael Turner should be in for a nice afternoon against the terrible Panther run defense, which put not one, but both of their starting DTs on the IR. Julio Jones looked to be over his injury issues, but had some mental errors that cost the team on multiple occasions last week. It’ll be interesting to see if he can start to play more consistent football down the stretch.
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals
T.J. Yates may not be Matt Schaub, but he’s not a bum either. This team is not going to tank under him, and considering how wide open the AFC is right now, they have about as good of a chance as any team to be playing in February. With Andre Johnson out again this week, we’ll see a whole lot Arian Foster (and some Ben Tate) taking on a Bengal defense that’s struggle a bit in recent weeks. Speaking of defenses, the Texans still don’t get enough credit for how well their defense has played this season. The unbelievable turnaround Wade Phillips has led can’t be talked about enough. We saw the Bengal offense look lost last week against the Steelers and they’ll struggle to get anything going against the Texans. A.J. Green is certainly a tough player to sit, but he’ll be tested by CB Johnathan Joseph, who might have been the most underrated free agent signing of 2011.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Fantasy players don’t want to hear this, but the Vikings should not be risking Adrian Peterson OR Christian Ponder this week. They are 2-10 and are obviously going nowhere this year and neither player is anywhere near 100% coming into this game. Those two are part of a nice offensive core this team has for the future, which is why it is not worth playing them. However, if Peterson goes, you can’t bench him. He’s played well despite injuries in the past and this isn’t a bad matchup at all. Joe Webb could be starting for the Vikings and while he may have looked Percy Harvin’s way last season, he’s a definite downgrade from Ponder, so I would lower expectations when it comes to Harvin. The Lions might have discipline issues, but their passing game should go off on this atrocious Viking secondary. Kevin Smith is not looking like a good option this week after having to leave practice Friday, so if you have to roll with Maurice Morris, who I’ve dubbed “America’s Fantasy Running Back” since he seems to be involved in every question I’m asked, I guess I’m okay with it, but only as a flex.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Let’s hope Josh Freeman is able to return from his shoulder injury in this game. The Bucs have a very beatable matchup against the hapless Jaguars, so Mike Williams should be able to continue his resurgence. LeGarrette Blount was once again a victim of the Buccaneers falling behind early last week against the Panthers, which made him a non-factor. That won’t happen this week, so he should be able to bounce back. I should note that the Bucs have talked about getting UDFA Mossis Madu involved a little more this week and that makes sense since they are out of the playoff hunt. As we saw on Monday night, it’s Maurice Jones-Drew and nobody else for the Jaguars when it comes to fantasy, although I was happy to see Cecil Shorts score. He could be a dynasty league prospect to keep an eye on.
Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins
The Eagles will finally have Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin back in the lineup this week, but unfortunately they’ll face a Dolphin defense that’s looked quite good in the second half of the season. It should be interesting to see if Maclin or the disappointing DeSean Jackson draws top Dolphin corner Vontae Davis in this matchup. LeSean McCoy will face a test against this defense, but he had no problems with the tough Seahawk run defense last week even though he was playing with a bad toe. Reggie Bush is having his best season ever and I’m not at all worried about this matchup for him. Because the Eagles have no clue how to defend the pass despite having a lot of talent at the CB position, I’m not worried about Brandon Marshall.
Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets
The Chiefs haven’t announced a starter yet, but you have to think they want to go to Kyle Orton if his finger is healthy enough. Their offense is completely lost and their only TD came off an extra-fluky Hail Mary at the end of the 1st half. I wouldn’t feel good about Dwayne Bowe this week since he’ll probably draw Darrelle Revis. Shonn Greene had 2 TDs coming into last week and ended up scoring three times. I don’t see him becoming a scoring machine all of a sudden, but with LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight banged up, it doesn’t look like Greene will have a lot of competition for touches. Rex Ryan suggested the Jets use some Wildcat offense and it looked like it worked out just fine. That is a bit of indictment of Mark Sanchez, although for fantasy, Sanchez hasn’t been a bad option.
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans
Chris Johnson has proven that he can take advantage of beatable matchups, and at this point, I’ll take that. He has another good one this week, but if the Titans can’t contain the Saint offense, the volume Johnson’s been getting won’t be there. Mark Ingram was turning the corner for the Saints, but a turf toe injury has to put his status in serious doubt going forward. Chris Ivory is a definite step down, but he could assume some of Ingram’s role. Robert Meachem might have flashed last week, but he had a fantastic matchup and doesn’t this week. He’s not someone you can rely on at this important point of the season.
New England Patriots at Washington Redskins
I’m a little worried about the Redskin pass rush getting to Tom Brady this week, but he should be able to carve up their secondary, especially without S LaRon Landry in the lineup. That’s great new for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but they don’t need a good matchup to produce. I’ve given up on the Patriot RBs, but then again, I never had any of these guys to begin with because more often than not, they’re frustrating. It’s been looking good for Roy Helu, but this won’t be an easy matchup for him, so don’t expect much from him on the ground, although he could make up for that with a decent game as a checkdown option since the Redskins won’t have Fred Davis. Santana Moss should be in good shape to have a nice game against this beatable Patriot secondary, especially since the Redskins will have to throw a lot to hang in this game.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
My weekly rule is to bench any RB facing the 49ers since they haven’t given up a rushing TD all season. I know that’s tough to do with Beanie Wells, but it’s not like he can make it up with his receiving skills since he’s not an active part of the passing game. If you want to tempt fate, Wells might have somewhat of a chance with LB Patrick Willis not expected to play. Michael Crabtree continues to look as good as we’ve ever seen him and with a willingness to throw it a bit more, I do like him this week, even if he does draw Patrick Peterson, who had some trouble with Dez Bryant last week. We’re still waiting for Frank Gore to get that rest, but it hasn’t been happening although that could change this week now that they’ve locked up the division and could be in control of this week. That doesn’t mean I’m taking a shot with Kendall Hunter, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him get a few more carries in the 2nd half.
Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos
I know Tim Tebow has been getting it done and is coming off one of his better passing days, but this feels like the toughest matchup he’s seen since taking over as the starter. The Bears have an aggressive, disciplined defense that is set up perfectly to defend Tebow and force him to throw to beat them and unlike the Vikings, their secondary is actually competent. I would lower my expectations when it comes to Tebow and Willis McGahee this week, but that doesn’t mean I’m picking against the Broncos. That’s because I’m not sold on the Caleb Hanie/Marion Barber duo as a replacement for Jay Cutler/Matt Forte. Hanie and the Bear offense was atrocious last week, so instead of simplifying things, Mike Martz feels the answer is to be more aggressive. That seems to be his answer for everything and he usually needs to be reeled in when things aren’t going well. Something tells me that’s going to happen after this game. Kahlil Bell is going to be in the mix with Barber, so don’t expect Barber to all of a sudden start getting 20 carries with Forte out.
Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers
If the Raiders were healthy, this would be a very intriguing game, but with Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, and Darren McFadden all out again, the Packers will be on their way to 13-0. However, I do think Carson Palmer will do quite well since he’ll need to throw it a lot to hang with the Packer offense and the Packer defense has had a lot of trouble defending the pass. That’s why I also like Darrius Heyward-Bey as a reach this week if you’re stuck filling your last WR or flex spot. We know the Packer passing game will be just fine, but with James Starks out, we should be seeing a mix of Ryan Grant and Brandon Saine. Saine is an intriguing player, who’s getting some more looks late in the season, just as Starks did last year, so while it wouldn’t surprise me to see him out produce Grant, we know the ground game is an afterthought for Green Bay.
Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers
It was nice to see the Chargers actually come through when they had a beatable matchup, and they have another one this week. The Bills have been terrible against the run, so Ryan Mathews should be a nice play. Mike Tolbert needs to score to produce for fantasy since he’s not getting a lot of touches anymore, which is why he’s only a flex play at this point. You have to like the Charger passing game this week with Buffalo’s secondary banged up and no pass rush to worry about for Philip Rivers and the makeshift Charger OL. Buffalo may be out of it, but their offense has played better in recent weeks and this isn’t a bad matchup at all. You have to like Stevie Johnson and can definitely take shots with C.J. Spiller and Ryan Fitzpatrick if you need them. With two QBs who aren’t afraid to sling it and bad defenses, this could be a game that yields a lot of fantasy output from both sides.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
With Miles Austin expected back this week, the question is how will they use him? Considering this is the second time he’s coming back from a hamstring injury, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in a rotation with Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant, with Austin getting the fewest number of snaps. If they go three-wide, it would take FB Tony Fiammetta off the field as a blocker for DeMarco Murray. Murray has struggled in recent weeks without Fiammetta and Tony Romo needs to have a running game so all the pressure isn’t on him to carry the offense. I’m still feeling okay about Robinson, especially after he returned to practice with his shoulder injury. The best option in Dallas this week will be Jason Witten since no team has given up more FPG to TEs than the Giants and they’ll be without S Kenny Phillips. Eli Manning has been money in the bank this season and he’s been totally in tune with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. The return of Mario Manningham almost feels like a luxury with how well Nicks and Cruz have played. The key to this game could be whichever team is able to protect their QB since both sides are considering two of the top pass rushing teams in the league.
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch is the only player I see playing in this game that I feel good about, and I didn’t envision myself saying that back in September. Seattle is all about Lynch and they should be since Tarvaris Jackson is still playing through his pectoral injury and doesn’t have much at receiver. The Rams will apparently be forced to start Tom Brandstater with Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (thumb) banged up. It will be Brandstater’s first NFL start and it couldn’t come in a much tougher environment than Seattle. Brandon Lloyd has to be downgraded significantly, which means it could be two weeks in a row where he lets you do. I can’t feel good about Steven Jackson either after he did nothing against the 49ers last week and faces another good run defense this week. What a terrible national game.
If you have any lineup questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below or get me on Twitter (@TheMattCamp) and I’ll get to them before action gets underway on Sunday. Enjoy the final weeks of fantasy and good luck in Week Fourteen!